There are different opinions about why the borders remain closed.
In response to the outbreak of Coronavirus in Azerbaijan, the state's borders were closed on March 18, 2020. Despite the abatement of the pandemic, the opening of other states’ borders, and societal dissatisfaction with this decision, the government of Azerbaijan continues to maintain its closed borders. The only route to leave the country is through airways, which is an expensive option for most Azerbaijani citizens.
Immigration risk is among the most commonly discussed reasons.
Following Russia's attack on Ukraine in February 2022, a large exodus of migrants from Russia began. The opening of the border would likely lead to immigrants flowing into Azerbaijan. There was a similar situation in 2020 during the Coronavirus pandemic, when many Azerbaijani citizens were left at the country's border with Russia. Currently, Russian citizens are trying to flee to the nearest and visa-free countries to avoid being forced into mobilization. The politician Azer Gasimli also believes that the closing of borders is due to the war in Ukraine: " The Azerbaijani authorities are unwilling. In case two-three hundred thousand, or half a million Azerbaijanis in Russia want to return to their country, it will bring certain changes from the social, economic, and political point of view and may lead to processes that are very difficult to stop." When the war started, many Russian citizens went to Georgia and brought with them a number of problems.
Security is another reason.
Following the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan and Armenia became openly hostile. The US State Department warned its citizens about the terrorism threat in Azerbaijan on May 19, 2021. Additionally, Azerbaijan's relations with Iran and Russia have been strained since the war. These 3 countries' terrorism threats to Azerbaijan are often mentioned in public discussion as one reason for closed borders.
Is the government protecting economic interests?
Another argument involves protecting economic interests. As a result of the shutdowns during the Coronavirus pandemic, the country's economy was severely damaged. Keeping the borders closed is assumed to prevent the population and resources from going abroad. According to economist Rovshan Agayev, this decision serves the interests of the oligarchy: "The aim is to prevent people from spending money on Georgia and Turkey as cheaper and better tourist destinations."
The Azerbaijani tourism to Georgia dropped to 6th place this year from first place before the pandemic. As a result, domestic tourism has the potential to benefit those who cannot travel abroad.
According to economist Natig Jafarli, none of these justifications are reasonable. He claims that the oligarchy already earns its main income from corruption and the budget. Jafarli asks: "What makes Georgia and Armenia stronger than us that keeps their land borders open and doesn’t block foreign influences?"
No matter the reason, citizens suffer when borders are closed. Now, people who wish to cross the border for treatment or to see relatives in neighboring countries are unable to do so. Further, the population living in the border regions purchased goods from neighboring countries and sold them domestically to earn. They are facing serious problems as a result of the closed borders.
Tourist trips to neighboring countries were cheaper when they crossed land borders, but this opportunity is no longer available to citizens.
According to official discourse, the pandemic is the only reason for maintaining closed borders. In his statement last year, President Ilham Aliyev said that the borders were closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic: "For that reason, we keep our borders closed and we do it well. The borders will be closed for as long as necessary." Despite claims by government officials that the country continues to face certain threats, experts and society representatives do not believe that this measure is still connected to the disease.
In a decision dated February 21, the Cabinet of Ministers extended the quarantine regime for another two months, until May 1. In other words, the borders will remain closed for another two months.